Friday, March 29, 2013

April Challenge Brings May... Flowers?

There are officially no words that rhyme with challenge, and I can't think of another word I want to use. April regime brings May... dreams? Sun beams? New jeans!


The April Challenge is this:

30 Days of:
30-Day Shred with Jillian Michaels
30 days without wheat
30 days without sugar
30 days without starchy vegetables
30 days without going under 1600 calories
30 days to glowing skin 

The food plan will basically consist of following the maintenance phase of the HCG drop diet. 1600-1700 calories a day of lean proteins (I don't eat red meat or much poultry even, so I'm going to attempt to do this on mostly fish, eggs, nuts, protein powder and some soy products), low-starch fruits and veg, avocado, oils, Greek yogurt, etc. Keeping my calories up equals keeping my metabolism up, keeping my proteins up equals keeping my appetite down, and keeping my fats up equals keeping my skin glowing.

I'm 34 (and a quarter, almost!) and I am suddenly obsessed with internal skincare. What can I eat to make my skin glow? I don't have any skin problems in the first place, other than being hyper-sensitive to the sun, but I'm looking forward to watching it improve even more by ingesting the right food. Sweat, of course, regenerates the skin as well, so the work-outs will help too.

I am doing this in order to get ready for summer (I have put on over 10lbs since losing 40 on the drops last year) but also to cut back on the things that my body gets hooked on--namely carbs, sugar, and alcohol, my three little devils. I have been drinking way too much beer these days. I'm going to post a calendar of the one day per week that I'm going to relax a little on the plans so I don't go crazy (everything in moderation! Even moderating!) but I don't get to opt out on the exercise.

Okay, I have to go prepare appetizers for my family's Easter dinner now, speaking of carbs (heirloom tomato tarts, clam linguine, cherries jubilee... oh my)!

I will try to check in a couple of times a week while on the challenge, and I think I will record my measurements as well so I don't make it so weight centric.

Let the games begin! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Two and a half days left!

I definitely didn't update this thingy as much as I thought I would, and I barely did any of the 'detox' stuff that I always plan in my mind before starting (dry brushing, epsom salt baths, etc). But, the bottom line is that we ate really well with minimal 'cheats' and we feel fantastic.

I feel fantastic not only physically, but mentally, regarding my choice to start leading a more vegetarian lifestyle (without being absolute, or Vegetarian with a capital V). When I think about how unnatural I find it to eat meat (I know there are a lot of arguments to the contrary; I'm talking about my own personal beliefs and how it would never occur to me in the wild to come across across an animal and kill it for food), and the amount of years I've already spent not eating it, it's surprising how quickly I can fall back into separating poultry from chicken, beef from cows.

I spent the majority of my teenage years as a vegetarian (and maybe one or two of those as a mostly-vegan), and a few years here and there afterwards without eating pork or beef. It just makes more sense to me. While I don't think I can say I will never eat chicken again, I think I will feel much better about myself and my diet knowing that I eat it rarely and I will seek out local farms where I know that the birds had a decent life and a humane death. As far as mammals go, I just don't think I can do it, but again, I'm not going to say never.

The cheats that I've had while on the detox were mushrooms (once) when I went to a friend's house for dinner. She knew I was on a vegetarian detox and asked what I could eat, and I said basically anything but meat, wheat, booze, sweets, and anything pickled or fermented. So she made a chili with all sorts of delicious vegetables and beans, including mushrooms. I didn't say a word because really, it's not the end of the world. I've also had a couple of desserts from vegan restaurants that used agave nectar or possibly sugar in their recipes. I'm not too concerned.

I'm down 7.8 lbs now, putting me back down to where I was in early December (or maybe a bit lower even). I have another 10 lbs to go until I feel like I'll be at a weight where my clothes will still fit but I'll be more content to remain there. For life, maybe. I like having a little junk in the trunk.

Let's see... what have we been up to, food-wise. On Friday, our weekly "sandwich night," we made veggie burgers. We'd done groceries after work and wanted something quick. I threw a sweet potato in the cart and we put together this delicious meal:

I tossed the sweet potato wedges in turmeric, olive oil, sea salt and sesame seeds. The veggie burger is store-bought (we wanted to make them from scratch but knew we'd get home late) and the bun is made from kamut flour. We used ajvar spread (red pepper vegetable spread) and goat cheese since we can't have ketchup or mustard.

Last night was Sunday Salmon Night, so we made a couple of delicious fillets with "zucchiniccine", roasted cherry tomatoes, and golden beets (I had a serious craving). This is my favourite kind of meal--simple but delicious.

We went to a vegetarian restaurant called The Table for dinner on Saturday night (one of those weigh-your-plate places). We tried some delicious things and it gave us a craving for cooking with coconut milk, so next week we'll attempt some Thai food at home. We'll be off the detox by then, and just eating vegetarian, basically. I'll try to remember to keep updating with our meal creations from time-to-time!

Friday, January 11, 2013

More than halfway.

Only five days left of our two-week detox. The time has flown by. And to be honest, we haven't really felt like we've been detoxing. When we follow someone else's plan, we tend to feel more restricted ("No coffee?! Ever?!"). Even with the Dr. Joshi alkaline detox, my favourite one, we get pretty sick of the limitations on fruit and veggies (no fruit except bananas and lemons, and no acidic vegetables or nightshades, which cuts out most of our favourite ones, like tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini).

Our basic concept boils down to 'No meat, no wheat, no booze, no sweets.' Not so difficult. And after doing various detoxes and diets for 3-6 week intervals, two weeks seems like a piece of cake!

I've been running again, which feels great. I've been going slow and steady (about 7.7 km/h), but unlike when I used to run, I am not taking any walking breaks--I just run for about 20-22 minutes straight with a few minutes of walking on either end (if I stop running for a break, it's hard to start again!). I do about 3.5 km in 28 minutes, but that includes a warm-up and cool-down walk. My fastest 5K speed was 36 minutes about a year and a half ago; I hope to get back to that (or surpass it--I do weigh less now) for the race weekend in May. 

I'm currently down 6.2lbs since we started. Marielle is down about the same, I believe. I've barely spent a penny of my 'weekly cash' (we are attempting some hard-core budgeting, which includes the 'cash in envelopes' system--when you run out of hard cold cash, you do not shop--period) because I'm not grabbing a coffee here or there, or going out for drinks. I feel fantastic and am extremely well-rested, with my average sleep time being 9:30pm - 6:30am in the past week or so. (Normal for me would be going to sleep between 10:30 & 11pm.) Instead of TV before bed we've been reading in bed, and it turns out I am my mother's daughter, and almost hit myself in the face with my book due to sleepiness after fifteen minutes of reading.

I haven't had trouble sleeping until 6:30am most days but today I was up at 5am. Which is okay; I still got enough sleep and I figured it was a good time to update my blog!

One thing we've both noticed, however, is that... well, we're eating a ton of curry. We love Indian food, and it's easy to make vegan Indian. But I was at the gym running the other day and... it's coming out my armpits. Yes, I am sweating curry. Oh well! 

This entry is going to be photo-heavy because I finally started taking more pictures of stuff. When I last wrote, I posted pictures of the organic black rice we were trying for the first time, and mentioned that we were going to attempt to make breakfast fritters out of the leftovers, as a base for a poached egg. It turned out great!

 Here's one of the curry culprits. Chana masala and aloo gobi. We couldn't believe the incredible flavours of these ones, especially the chana masala. We loosely followed a recipe but spiced it ourselves and added extra garlic and ginger, as we tend to do. There were full coriander and cumin seeds right in it, and they were so fragrant in the recipe. The trick to Indian, I find, is adding your spices while sautéeing your onions, garlic and ginger. It toasts them and they really cling to the recipe even after you add your liquids. We used some fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, and water for the sauce, and put in a plethora of spices (turmeric, paprika, chili powder, cumin, curry, and garam masala). 

I went to a friend's house for dinner on Tuesday, so we made enough of the Indian for Marielle to have leftovers. I was sad I didn't get to eat it that night, but after telling Tina that I was on a 'vegan detox,' she made us some bean chili, which was fantastic. The only thing in it that I wasn't technically supposed to eat was mushrooms, but I ate them anyway--didn't want to fuss and I figure it will not spoil anything. 
On Wednesday night we made bean tacos on sprouted corn tortillas. We got the tortillas at Market Organics, and unfortunately, they weren't great. I am a flour tortilla kinda gal--I will pick the soft, powdery wheat ones over corn any day. But! No wheat is part of the plan, and these were sprouted corn on top of that, so we figured why not--it would be fun to have the opportunity to make something different ("not Indian"). They weren't awful, but the texture was a tad dry and they ripped a little while you ate them. It was a little messy. But overall, DELICIOUS dinner. 
Last night, we tried another Mexican dish--a recipe from the Wild Rose detox cookbook. It was called "black bean and corn loaf", so we were expecting, well, a loaf. It was not. It's a mix of brown rice, black beans, corn, celery, onions, and spices, mixed with two eggs and baked in a loaf pan. But you don't purée any of the ingredients, so it had no chance in hell of actually sticking together. I think if I made these again, I would blitz at least the beans if not the rice and beans, then stir in the corn, celery, etc. Regardless, it was absolutely delicious--I would just call it a 'rice and bean casserole' and bake it in a lasagna tray next time, that's all. They suggest pouring a homemade marinara on top, but we wanted fresh salsa instead (tomato, avocado, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, salt). 

We have leftovers of this for lunch today. Yesssss.

Friday is 'sandwich night' for us--it has been for a few months now, and it's not a tradition we want to break too often. Last Friday we had zucchini 'pasta' with marinara, but we made sure to add wheat-free garlic bread, but tonight we're attempting veggie burgers without a recipe. We're using white beans, quinoa, toasted almonds, and lots of spices, garlic, onion, etc. It's 'lacto ovo' Friday, so we can add some egg for binding and even put cheese on it. I forgot to take photos of the salmon burgers we had last Sunday, but they were incredible!

We have a detox date night tomorrow and plan to head to one of the vegetarian restaurants nearby. Afterwards we'll be attending a friend's birthday gathering (drinks and cake!) so we'll go straight from the restaurant to make sure we're not hungry at all, and we'll maybe bring some chilled herbal tea with us so we can feel like we're having a cocktail too. 

On Sunday we have a brunch for my birthday, so there may be a bit of cheating. I plan to order a vegetable omelet, which comes with molasses toast and homefries--I will choose one or the other and not eat both. Although wheat is not on my diet and potatoes are okay, I think I will choose the whole wheat molasses toast and order it dry--much healthier than home fries! Or rye if they have it--my fave. 

It's 6:15 now, time to get ready for work! Happy Friday!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day Five on the Lower-case Dee (Tox).

Our casual detox is going quite well. I am actually pretty excited about being off meat. I realized yesterday that I've been completely meat free so far in 2013 and started to exclaim that I should challenge myself to a full year without (I always love these little challenges and projects I give myself). But then my NO ABSOLUTES resolution flashed through my head, and I thought about being a pain in the butt at family dinners (no one likes to cook around a vegetarian--except maybe my mom, who could do it easily for a year with a different meal each time, probably). So I'm just going to follow the path of least resistance, and not eat meat because I don't want to, lower my dairy intake (because really, if cows are mistreated in the farming industry, that includes being forced to produce milk unnaturally, and kept in small pens, etc), and keep up with the wild fish. This is for at-home consumption. When out, I tend to gravitate towards veggie burgers anyway, and did even while eating meat, so I'll keep that up, but if the mood strikes to eat white meat at a pub or something, well... never say never.

The weight loss is slow, but at least I've reversed the direction. Down 3.6 pounds since Wednesday, January 2nd. More importantly, feeling good. I feel cleaner and more alert. The caffeine reduction certainly helps, I'm sure, but being off meat, wheat, sweets and booze makes such a difference. 

Yesterday I took the dog for a 75-minute walk by myself. It was meditative and I realized that I actually prefer winter to summer, unlike 99% of the population. The trees heavy with snow, the squeaky sounds my feet made on the sidewalk as I trudged along, the feeling of solitude a big hood gives you, the ability to regulate your internal temperature by removing layers or unzipping as you go... you can't beat that! Maybe I'm just working with what I have, and to hate winter living in Ottawa would be a huge thorn in my side. No resistance!

Some things we're eating. Organic black rice. I've never had black rice before--wild rice, yes, but black rice is a shorter grain. And nutty and absolutely delicious! We topped it with some leftover dahl from last week and had a side of carrot sticks with tahini dressing for dipping.

This morning, we are going to attempt to make black rice fritters with the leftovers, two small ones, and we'll put a poached eggs on top. I will take photos if we're successful; we're working without a recipe!

On Friday night, we made a marinara from scratch sans recipe. We used an onion, two carrots, one green pepper, two small zucchinis, a LOT of garlic, 4-5 roma tomatoes, dried spices (basil, chilies, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper), fresh basil, and a can of crushed tomato, then blended it all together. We threw in some Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) and poured it over a bed of zucchini ribbons (made with a veggie peeler as we don't have a mandolin). A friend stopped by and tried it and was surprised that it was veg--she said she would've assumed that there was actual ground meat in the sauce.

It ended up making far more than we expected, so we had leftovers last night. We had no zucchini left but we did have a few bags of frozen shredded cabbage in the freezer, so we sautéed it with some garlic and thyme, and used that as our 'noodle.' It was way better than we expected! Yesterday was lacto-ovo day so we got to have a sprinkle of parmesan too--what a treat. We split a kamut bun to make a little garlic bread side.

I love pasta, but I feel like I never need to eat it again, between our 'zucchiniccine,' shredded cabbage, spaghetti squash... I have yet to try the tofu noodles from the Asian supermarket that my mom told me about, but if they're close to the texture of pasta, then I never have to eat the gluteny wheat ones again (they give me awful gas--TMI?--plus I tend to overeat pasta every time).

For a bedtime snack last night, we made our own version of Chai lattes. The tea is called India Spice, and I think I posted about it back when we did Joshi last in September 2011. It's not quite Chai, but I find it even more flavourful.

We put a couple of teabags in a pot of soy milk on the stove, let it come to a slow simmer, and then we use our new frother (from dad!) to make velvety foam, and top with cinnamon. It's delicious.

Today's recipe will be the detox salad dressing that we're using, both as a dressing and as a veggie dip. It's absolutely delicious on brown rice as well or as a sauce over falafel. Enjoy!

Lemon Tahini Dressing.

2/3 cup unsweetened soy milk (I've also used almond milk, which is fine)
5 Tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1 garlic clove, crushed 
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup tahini (we found a brand of tahini in the ethnic section at Food Basics that was a fraction of the cost of the kind you'd get at, say, Market Organics) 
1/8th tsp toasted sesame oil (I use a bit more than they say because 1/8th seems ridiculous to me)

Put all ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender and purée until smooth. Voila!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Another Day, Another Detox.

Here we go again.

Day one of a 14-day detox. It cannot be found online, or in a book, because basically, it's a lowercase-d detox. We've done this enough times to know the basics, and after two stints with the strict HCG drops this summer--combined with a New Year's resolution to be easier on myself--I've decided to play it cool.

The idea is that we will do fourteen or fifteen days of the following:

Monday to Thursday: vegan
Friday and Saturday: lacto-ovo
Sunday: pescatarian

(Even though we're starting on a Wednesday, we'll stick to this, because we can then have eggs on Saturday morning and a nice salmon dinner on Sunday.)

Plus the typical commandments of your garden-variety detox:

- No wheat
- No sugar
- No booze
- No tropical fruit
- No fermented foods or funghi 
- Limited caffeine
- Limited high-acid produce

We'll also try to be a little better about products we're using, dry skin-brushing before having a shower, doing yoga, maybe even meditating a little, which I spend so much time thinking about ("When am I going to find time to meditate?") that I may as well just be doing it.

We've been making more vegetarian meals than usual these days--I think we're just naturally leaning away from meat right now. Maybe it's more of a summer thing? Grilled chicken and salad, etc. I'm craving hot, mushy, bean-y comfort foods, like this dahl we made a couple of weeks ago, poured over sweet potatoes and served with roasted cherry tomatoes and cilantro.
My goals are:

- Brighter Skin (I've been looking a little dull and blotchy in the past month after feeling like I was glowing all summer while off wheat and limiting the booze)
- Lose a Few (Story of my life--but especially needed after the holidays!)
- Detox from Meat (So over it these days. And always really. Yes, most meat tastes good, but I'm so over the idea of it, the cruelty of it, the health problems related to it, the recalls... Enough is enough.)

I would still like to eat fish from time-to-time, especially salmon, because I love it. But there will be a Wild Salmon Only rule. (In fact, we just had salmon tonight, and it's supposed to be vegan day today, but Marielle planned a dinner party a couple of weeks ago and we couldn't force everyone to eat our detox menu.) 

I'm not saying I plan to come out of this a vinyl-shoe-wearing vegan, I just hope to be more careful with my choices. And I like detoxing because it's fun to organize and plan and execute! Must. Have. A project.

Daily Menu, 2 Jan:

6:30am: My one and only coffee of the day (hardest part!) 

7:30am: Smoothie (silken tofu, frozen blueberries, water, cinnamon) 

10:00am: 2 clementines, mug of hot water with lemon

12:00pm: One bowl Smoky Split Pea soup (recipe below), 4 Mary's Organic crackers, and a small green salad with tahini-lemon dressing 

1:30pm: EXERCISE (I did a 35-minute weight circuit at the gym)

2:30pm: 1oz raw almonds, mug of hot water with lemon

3:30pm: celery sticks with 2 tablespoons of guacamole 

7:00pm: salmon, zucchini cut into thin strips with a mandolin, and roasted cherry tomatoes. 

Water: approximately 5L

I just finished a chamomile tea and will try to get into bed shortly after 9pm for some reading. Normally we watch TV until 10:30 or so, but there's never actually anything on that we want to watch, so... why do it?

Day one down, easy peasy. Hoping for a bit of movement on the scale tomorrow after putting on way too much weight over the holidays, but I'm pleased with myself either way. I ate well, I limited my caffeine, I exercised. I was around cheese, baguette, paté, chocolate and coffee this evening but managed to stick to detox foods only. I hope to sleep like a baby tonight.

Here is the recipe for the soup we made today. It's one of our favourite recipes. I use about two tablespoons of smoked paprika rather than the recommended four teaspoons, but I like it spicy. Sometimes I also throw in a pinch of chipotle flakes for a bit more heat. Enjoy!

Smoky Split Pea Soup
From Appetite for Reduction
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A few twists of the pepper grinder
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 1/4 cups dry split peas
  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper, and salt, and saute for another minute. Add the paprika and thyme, and stir continuously for about 15 seconds to toast the spices a bit.
Add the carrots, split peas, and broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, the lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the peas are creamy. Stir occasionally to prevent the soup from burning at the bottom. If necessary, thin the soup with water.